Philippines: Human Rights Groups Condemn Public Shaming of Accused Lesbians

Jeoffrey Maitem
Cotabato, Philippines
Philippines: Human Rights Groups Condemn Public Shaming of Accused Lesbians Philippine police arrest protesters during an LGBTQ Pride march in Manila, June 26, 2020.

Human rights groups have condemned the shaming of six women and girls in the southern Philippines who were forced to have their heads shaved in public because they were accused of being lesbians.  

A video posted on June 8, and which circulated on social media before it was taken down over the weekend, showed residents of Ampatuan town witnessing the spectacle. The town is in Maguindanao, a predominantly Muslim province on Mindanao Island.

The independent Commission on Human Rights said it was investigating the incident, calling it “deeply concerning” because it occurred during Pride Month.

“No person should ever suffer discrimination and harm based on one’s affiliation or creed, or because of one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, or sex characteristics,” Commission spokeswoman Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement. 

“Religious freedom, while it includes the absolute right to believe in dogma, cannot transgress on the rights of others nor be used to justify harm and violence,” she said in a statement posted on the commission’s website over the weekend.

“This is especially so when current laws, such as the Safe Spaces Act, uphold the right of all persons from harassment, including protection from remarks and slurs that betray hatred and fear of members of the LGBTQI community.”

On Monday, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed similar concerns.

“Officials should ensure that justice is served for the victims and the perpetrators are held accountable, and lawmakers should redouble efforts to prohibit and eradicate discrimination against LGBTI people throughout the Philippines,” said Ryan Thoreson, an HRW researcher focusing on LGBT rights.

Meanwhile, King Mangudadatu, a Maguindanao provincial board member, told reporters that an investigation was under way to determine if an existing anti-discrimination law was broken during the public shaming.

He said local officials were to meet with the parents of the women and girls in the video who are between the ages of 16 and 20, along with community leaders to ensure the incident will not happen again. 

“We have a law that prohibits discrimination, especially in the Philippines,” Mangudadatu said. 

Shortly after the incident last week, LGBT rights group Ladlad Party List said its members respected Islam as a religion, but teens have civil and political rights and the shaming suffered by the six was “legally wrong.” 

“We respect the Islam religion, but we’d like to remind the parents and the Muslim leaders that we have no state religion. Therefore, our children, our youth, Filipinos, have civil and political rights,” Ladlad president Danton Remoto said. 

Previous incident

In April 2020, local officials in Pampanga province, near Manila, stopped and detained three LGBTQ people who violated curfew, alleging they were seeking illicit sex. As punishment, the three were humiliated publicly by ordering them to kiss, dance and do push-ups on live viral broadcasts on social media, HRW reported at the time.

Despite public condemnation against the treatment of the three, no official was punished, officials said. 

The Philippines, a deeply devout majority-Catholic nation, has been accepting of homosexuality and members of the LGBT community. 

In 2016, the first transgender woman, Geraldine Roman, won a seat in Congress.

Still, three years later, President Rodrigo Duterte, said he had “cured” himself of homosexuality with the help of beautiful women.


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